The story first got legs last week in the Korean media with a ministry official answering questions as to whether South Korean nationals were among foreign jihadists fighting for the Islamic State (ISIS).
The initial line of questioning from the press grew out of the following quote given to CNN by 18-year-old Hamad al-Tamimi:
“There are people hailing from all over the world that have joined ISIS. From Norway, from America, Canada, Somalia, Korea, China, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Lebanon and European countries such as Germany and France.”
Korean officials initially dismissed the al-Tamimi claim.
“We’re working closely to find out if our nationals are among the ISIS jihadists, although we believe our people are most likely not involved,” a ministry official said. “However, it will take some time until we can truly confirm this.”
South Korean Teen then Reported Missing
Two days later on January 17th, a Turkish media outlet reported that an 18-year-old Korean visiting Turkey had gone missing.
“The man disappeared on January 10 after he left a hotel” in the southern Turkish town of Kilis near the border with Syria, an official told AFP.
The young man had been accompanied on part of his journey by an as yet unidentified South Korean man, who later reported the disappearance to the South Korean embassy according to Yonhap.
South Korean officials soon stepped in to assist in the hunt for the missing teen.
“We dispatched officials from our embassy on Tuesday and since then they have been searching for him, together with Turkish police,” the official said, while declining to give further details.
Turkish newspaper Milliyet later reported that the South Korean teen had not only crossed the Turkish border into Syria but that he had joined ISIS.
Evidence Points to Teen Possibly Joining ISIS Jihadists
According to Milliyet the teenager, identified only as “Kim”, exchanged emails with ISIS militants before he entered Turkey.
On Sunday South Korean authorities added that pictures of ISIS flags were found on his computer.
An employee of the hotel where Kim was staying before disappearing described Kim as a long-haired, skinny male with an uneasy demeanor.
“Kim looked very nervous here. When he left the hotel on Jan. 10, he wore a white mask with a backpack on.”
The employee further speculated: “He may have gone to Syria with Hassan,” a Turkish national whom Kim had exchanged emails with after meeting him on the Internet.
While officials acknowledge that the South Korean teenager could have indeed joined the Islamic State in Syria, they are considering other circumstances.
“We are open to all possibilities,” a police official said, implying that it is also possible that Kim may have been kidnapped.
If Kim has become a jihadist, he joins a growing list of foreign nationals flocking to ISIS. According to the American Central Intelligence Agency, more than 15,000 foreign fighters from 80 countries have gone to Syria to join up.
The Latest Haps
The Busan International Ocean Marathon takes place on Sunday, October 2. Some streets on the marathon route will be closed.
The country’s top court has sentenced a South Korean man to 12 years in prison for attempting to murder the U.S. ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert.
The Kim Young-ran anti-graft law is taking in effect starting today. The law aims to prevent government employees and various officials from receiving bribes.
Busan Subway Lines 1, 2 and 3 have begun emergency services today due to a general strike of the Busan Metro Labor Union.
Busan will light up with K-Pop stars, food and culture for the month of October.
The tentative lineup for guests visiting the 21st Busan International Film Festival for the opening day on October 6th is near completion.
With the nation’s biggest shopping and cultural event “Korea Sale’s FESTA” beginning today, Busan’s distribution industries have begun participating in an all-out competition.
The Busan One Asia Festival is offering free admissions to Taste Busan and the Korean Wave Star & Beauty Collection for foreign guests at BEXCO.
BeFM’s “On the Road Busan” team invites you for a final FREE trip around the beautiful Busan Bay at the Wave Yacht Lounge Closing Party on Saturday, October 8th.
The Busan International Food Expo 2016 will be held in BEXCO from October 6th to the 9th.
The “2016 Jinju Namgang Lantern Festival” will begin on October 1st and end on the 16th at Jinju Namgang Ilwon.
A new survey by MasterCard shows that Seoul is once again the 10th most popular city for travel in the world.
Join forces for good and come participate in the 2016 Superhero Comic Dash! Presented by The H.U.G.S (Helping Us Grow to be Superheroes) Association.
Runners from around the world will gather at the 2016 Busan International Ocean Marathon on Oct. 2.